Thursday, March 1, 2012

CAA report: Bring on the tournament!

Remember the Colonial Athletic Association's preseason rankings? We didn't either. But now that the regular season is over, we thought it would be interesting to compare what people thought then to what we actually know now:

Preseason                         Final
1. Delaware                        1. Delaware (18-0, 27-1)
2. VCU                              2. James Madison (14-4, 23-6)
3. James Madison               3. Drexel (12-6, 16-12)
4. Hofstra                           4. Hofstra (11-7, 19-10)
5. (tie) Drexel                     5. UNC Wilmington  (11-7, 18-11)       5. (tie) Old Dominion          6. VCU (9-9, 16-13)
7. UNC Wilmington            7. George Mason (8-10, 14-15)
8. George Mason                8. Old Dominion (7-11, 10-20)
9. William and Mary            9. Towson (7-11, 16-13)
10. Georgia State                10. Northeastern (6-12, 8-21)
11. Towson                         11. William and Mary (3-15, 10-19)
12. Northeastern                 12. Georgia State (2-16, 8-21)

The CAA Tournament runs from March 8-11 at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md. Click here  for more details, the pairings and the tournament bracket.

Who's hot (besides Delaware)

- Northeastern: The Huskies used to just play teams tough. Now they're outplaying tough teams - Northeastern's 4-1 record over its last five games includes a 9-point victory over No. 2 JMU and Wednesday's 18-point drubbing of No. 4 Hofstra. The lone loss came Sunday to Delaware, but hey, no one's that hot.

- JMU: During their three-game winning streak, the Dukes have shown signs of adding consistent offensive execution to their always-sublime defense. Even our girl Nikki Newman has caught the scoring fever, banking in 3-pointers (OK, she only did that once) and dropping a career-high 15 points on George Mason in Wednesday's regular-season finale. Go on with your bad self, Nik!

Who's not

- Hofstra: Four weeks ago, the Pride was a solid NCAA Tournament at-large candidate. Now the squad limps into the CAAs having won just three of its final eight games.

- William and Mary/Towson - Both enter the tournament on four-game losing streaks. For the Tigers, this might simply be a case of a formerly overachieving team finding its natural level. But William and Mary, oh, man, so many really good players.... We're stubborn about stuff like this so we're not wavering on our belief that this group still has a big victory or two in it. But hey, guys, it needs to happen like, NOW.

Speaking of the Tribe, we stopped by Kaplan Arena Wednesday night to catch the Elena Delle Donne Show and see the final home game of William and Mary stars Kat DeHenzel and that amazing leaper, Taysha Pye. We asked both of them to reflect on their favorite basketball-related memory at William and Mary:

Pye: "I have so many but this one comes to mind. We were in Cancun on the hottest bus ride ever, and the bus driver was singing "Tribe Jugar!" (Hope we're getting that right; Pye said the loose translation is "The Tribe is going to play:"). We all starting singing it, and we sang it the whole way. I'll never forget it; it was so much fun."

DeHenzel: "Mine would be beating ODU (snapping a 52-game losing streak to the Lady Monarchs). That's been a big deal since I stepped foot in the door here. To be on the team that finally did it was just great."

We didn't write as much about George Mason this season as we would have liked, but we want to give a shoutout to Patriots seniors (from left) Amber Epps, Evelyn Lewis and Taleia Moton after their final home game Wednesday against JMU.

Finally, we loved this quote from Delaware coach Tina Martin on how the Blue Hens roster has blended so seamlessly: "This team has embraced Elena's talents, Elena has embraced this team's talents and they've all made the best of both."

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